Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Nice Ssssunny day

I was walking around the yard, looking for trees that may need to be trimmed, when I came across this little fella:

A prime example of the black rat snake. I've been seeing more of them around here this year, and this is actually one of the smaller ones. He looked like he was between 2-3' long, and about an inch and a half around. The two I saw earlier this year were around 4' long, and quite a bit thicker than this guy. He was just lying there in the grass, soaking up some rays, when I came along and snapped a couple photos. I guess he was annoyed that I interrupted his siesta, because he turned around and slithered into the trees.

I carry around a bit of guilt, since I used to kill any snake that used to cross my path. As a child, I was taught that all snakes were dangerous, and would kill you the first chance that they got. I'm not sure if that  belief was a result of stupidity or superstition. It was probably a combination of both. I still remember the day my family was moving into my childhood home. My mom was on crutches at the time, and was trying to help move stuff into our new home. On one of her trips back to the house, a large rat snake slithered out from under the porch. My mom is deathly afraid of snakes, so she freaked out, dropped her crutches and hopped on to the porch. Of course, one foot was broken, so that hurt like hell, and she fell back off the porch, nearly landing on the snake. My dad heard the commotion, and ran outside to find my mom writhing in pain and trying to get back in the house without getting bitten. The snake, who I'm sure was amused by all of this, crawled back under the porch before my dad could chop him up into little pieces with a shovel. I like to think the snake knew what he was doing. They can probably appreciate a good joke just like everyone else.

I've had numerous encounters with our scaly friends over the years, but only once was I pants crappingly scared by one.  I was mowing the orchard next to my uncle's house, when I came across one of the largest rat snakes I've ever seen. I was more educated on snakes by that point, and had adapted a live and let live policy. You don't bother me, and I won't bother you. So, rather than just lowering the deck and turning the snake into a chunky paste, I decided to do the neighborly thing and move him to the woods. I got off the lawn mower, and picked up what seemed like a sturdy stick. I moved over to the snake, and was able to coax him to wrap around the branch. Remember when I said, "what seemed like a sturdy stick"? Well, I discovered that things aren't always what they seem, since the branch broke while I was walking the snake over to the trees.

 Now, I've seen those nature shows, where they film snakes striking at prey, and it seems almost instantaneous. First you see a mouse sitting in front of the snake, a quick blur, and now the mouse is hanging halfway out of the snake's mouth. Watching those shows didn't prepare me for just how quickly those things can move. As soon as the snake's body touched the ground, it lunged for my hand. The two events appeared to happen simultaneously. Amazingly, I was just a touch faster than the snake that day. I was able to pull my hand back before he could latch on, but he still managed to rake his teeth across the top of my thumb. The snake must have thought I learned my lesson, because it immediately slithered off into the underbrush. I started to freak out a little. Being half bitten by a snake will do that to a person. I think I was worried I may have been bitten by the one black rat snake that was venomous, because I tried the whole suck out the venom thing. All that did was give me a mouthful of blood and the realization that if there was venom in the wound, it was more than likely I had swallowed some. I ran back to my uncle's house, and my aunt patched up the wound. She reassured me it was unlikely the snake was venomous, and the only thing I needed to worry about was my thumb getting infected and falling off. Maybe those weren't her exact words, but that's what my freaked out teenage mind heard. I eventually calmed down enough to go back to cutting the grass, though I made sure I kept my eyes on the trees, in case my new friend decided to attack again.

I obviously didn't lose my thumb, but I did have a pretty cool scar on top of it for several years, as well as a cool story to go with it. It's funny, but after that day, any fear I had of snakes had disappeared. You'd think it would be the other way around, but I feel like I gained more respect for them that day. I like to think that snake hadn't intended to hurt me after all. Instead he saw a young human that needed to be taught a lesson. I might not feel gracious enough to say thank you, but I will say, 'Well played Mr. Snake. Lesson learned.'


  1. Never heard of a rat snake...I will google them now.

  2. My wife hates snakes and while am not terrible crazy about them I have your policy of I will live them alone if they leave me alone. We have snakes here in Michigan but I have never had any encounters with them so I guess they have the same policy as well.


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